INDIANAPOLIS – That there has been change with the Indianapolis Colts since the end of the 2011 season is obvious. That some of the faces will remain the same is obvious as well.
The Colts endured a 2-14 season in 2011 that prompted dramatic change in the organization. Ryan Grigson was brought in as general manager. Chuck Pagano was tabbed as head coach. Pagano's coaching staff is dotted with new faces, and the playing roster is undergoing change, too.
One constant that remains is wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who will start his 12th year in Indianapolis. Wayne agreed to contract terms on Wednesday. He is happy to be back, happy to continue in a city and organization in which he is entwined and eager to help the team institute a new era.
"This is home and this is where I wanted to be," said Wayne. "It came down to the wire with a couple of teams. I really just took my time, thought about everything, sat with my family, put everything together and this was the right choice.
"(I'm a) Colt for life. I'm going to get that tattoo put on my back."
Wayne, a first-round pick of Indianapolis in 2001, resumes a Colts career that has seen him snare 862 passes for 11,708 yards and 73 touchdowns. Wayne ranks behind only Marvin Harrison (1,102-14,580, 128) in franchise receptions, yards and touchdown receptions. Wayne topped the club in 2011 with 75 receptions for 960 yards, while his four scoring receptions ranked second.
His career on-field production is dramatic, as is his wit in discussing himself, his team and the sport he loves. For now, he is excited to help the club as it moves into a new era. Gone may be some past teammates, but not Wayne's resolve to be as successful as possible.
"I do want to be part of it, just like I'm part of the city," said Wayne. "I just want to help build that foundation. It's not set in stone that we're going to (struggle). Who knows, we might shock the world. This time next year, you might be writing that these Colts are some bad boys. I guess we'll be in tune to find out what happens. Until then, I'm just going to sit here with the guys we have and keep working at it. Hopefully, we can get something going real soon."
Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis will be two of the more veteran faces in the Indianapolis locker room this season. He will not declare this 'his' team, but he does not back down from providing leadership at every turn.
"I'll be part of this team. If that's the title that I'm given ('his' team), that's fine," said Wayne. "I consider myself a leader as well as Robert (Mathis) does. We are going to do the things that we have to do to lead this team. We still have guys on this team that know what to do and know how to go out there and play to the final whistle. We're going to need that from everybody. I do whatever I can to help the team get better or help a player get better. Whatever my two cents does for them, hopefully it will carry them a long way."
Wayne's talents have carried him a long way already. Last year, he fell just 40 reception yards shy of becoming the sixth player to record eight or more consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Wayne, Lance Alworth and Jimmy Smith were able to do it seven straight years.
Wayne is tied for 15th-most NFL receptions, while ranking 22nd in yardage and tying for 30th in touchdown receptions. One more 1,000 season would make him the 13th player to have at least eight 1,000 campaigns. Without being driven by statistics, Wayne is aware of his historical standing, and he has a desire to continue.
"I am sad about it to this day. Last night through all the stuff that was going on, I Googled myself and my stats came up," said Wayne. "I looked at what I had going and I was sad to see that it fell short by only 40 yards. I'm definitely ready to get going, get back on track and get everyone else on track. So, let's have fun doing it."
Wayne was like a number of teammates and players around the league who had the opportunity to consider new playing venues. When it came to decision time, Wayne gave a nod to where he has been.
"There was a lot of stuff I had to think about and sit down. Right before I made my decision, I took 30 minutes and just closed myself in my office," said Wayne. "I just thought (about) what all made sense and put everything in perspective. Like I said, I Googled myself and looked at all my career stats and put everything into a small bottle and shook it up. The first thing that came to my mind and popped out was to stay here with the Colts. I feel like that was the right thing to do and to help build this process and to keep it going.
"I always thought of myself as a Colt. I came here to win. I came here to win games. I didn't come here to fall off. The intensity is still the same and the agenda is still the same. We're going to do everything we have to do to get to that point. … I'm here in the 317 (area code), which is Indianapolis, and I'm here for the rest of my career. Let's go ahead and win while we can."
Wayne's mindset about being ingrained with the club means affinity for his new head coach and a former one, too, and he wants to help writing the history of the Colts in Indianapolis.
"This is something that I just felt like it was right. I felt like the situation was golden for me," said Wayne. "Coach Pagano and I are really good friends. I wanted to do it for him. I'm good friends with (Quarterbacks Coach) Clyde Christensen. I know it's going to be a tough situation going into it, but who knows, it may work out for the better in the long run. Even if I'm not here, I can always say I helped build that foundation. When it came to (the University of) Miami, I never won a championship there, but the year I left they won a championship. So, I got to say I helped build a foundation. Maybe I can say the same thing here if nothing goes on while I'm here. While I'm here, we're definitely shooting for that main goal that all 32 teams are shooting for. We're going to get it done the best way we can.
"I want to continue my journey here and keep taking the same trail to West 56th Street. That's all I know. I've been here 11 years and this is what it is. I bleed blue, and I will continue to do so."